After Washington and Colorado passed measures legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, members of Congress are asking that the federal government respect state laws.
Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) and Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) were among the 18 members of Congress to sign a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and Drug Enforcement Administrator Michele Leonhart on Friday requesting that states be permitted to function as “laboratories of democracy.” An excerpt from the letter:
The people of Colorado and Washington have decided that marijuana ought to be regulated like alcohol, with strong and efficient regulation of production, retail sales and distribution, coupled with strict laws against underage use and driving while intoxicated. The voters chose to eliminate the illegal marijuana market controlled by cartels and criminals and recognized the disproportionate impact that marijuana has on minorities. These states have chosen to move from a drug policy that spends millions of dollars turning ordinary Americans into criminals toward one that will tightly regulate the use of marijuana while raising tax revenue to support cash-strapped state and local governments. We believe this approach embraces the goals of existing federal marijuana law: to stop international trafficking, deter domestic organized criminal organizations, stop violence associated with the drug trade and protect children.
While we recognize that other states have chosen a different path, and further understand that the federal government has an important role to play in protecting against interstate shipments of marijuana leaving Colorado and Washington, we ask that your departments take no action against anyone who acts in compliance with the laws of Colorado, Washington and any other states that choose to regulate marijuana for medicinal or personal use. The voters of these states chose, by a substantial margin, to forge a new and effective policy with respect to marijuana. The tide of public opinion is changing both at the ballot box and in state legislatures across the country. We believe that the collective judgment of voters and state lawmakers must be respected.
The missive comes after Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Ron Paul (R-Texas) sent a similar letter to the White House urging President Barack Obama to "respect the wishes of voters in Colorado and Washington," and Reps. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) drafted legislation exempting states with their own marijuana laws from the Controlled Substances Act.
Paul and Frank, ardent supporters of marijuana legalization who in 2011 introduced legislation to lift the federal ban on marijuana, are retiring from Congress at the end of the year.